Long-unburnt habitat is critical for the conservation of threatened vertebrates across Australia

Brenton von Takach, Chris J. Jolly, Kelly M. Dixon, Cara E. Penton, Tim S. Doherty, Sam C. Banks

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Context: Increases in fire frequency, intensity and extent are occurring globally. Relative to historical, Indigenous managed conditions, contemporary landscapes are often characterised by younger age classes of vegetation and a much smaller representation of long-unburnt habitat. 

    Objectives: We argue that, to conserve many threatened vertebrate species in Australia, landscape management should emphasise the protection of existing long-unburnt patches from fire, as well as facilitate the recruitment of additional long-unburnt habitat, while maintaining historically relevant age distributions of more recently burned patches. 

    Methods: We use a range of case studies and ecosystem types to illustrate three lines of evidence: (1) that many threatened vertebrate species depend on mid- to late-successional ecosystem attributes; (2) disturbance to long-unburnt habitat tends to increase risk of future disturbance and ecosystem collapse; and (3) contemporary landscapes exhibit a range of characteristics that differ to historical conditions and require context-specific management. 

    Conclusions: It is crucial that we adequately consider the implications of altered contemporary landscapes for management activities that aim to conserve threatened vertebrates. Contemporary landscapes often lack a range of critical structural and compositional components typical of late-successional habitat that are required for the persistence of threatened vertebrates. We need to shift towards strategic, objective-driven approaches that identify and protect long-unburnt habitats and promote their recruitment to enable recovery of many declining and threatened species.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages14
    JournalLandscape Ecology
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 09 Mar 2022

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